Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Glue That Binds It All Together?

Kevin Drum made an interesting observation the other day in The Washington Monthly online, one of those, well-duh things that are obvious as soon as you hear them.
...I've long been fascinated by the fact that although issues of gender and sex are at the core of so many contemporary hot button social issues, this simple observation rarely bubbles up to the surface. The dominance of op-ed pages, blogs, and opinion magazines by men is almost certainly one of the reasons.

Now, it's true that not all hot button social issues are gender related. School prayer and guns aren't, for example, except in a fairly abstract way. But take a look at the other social issues that raise blood pressure the most and the sex/gender basis underlying them is striking:
  • Sex education
  • Abortion
  • Sex/porn on TV
  • Contraception
  • Gay rights
  • Welfare (overwhelmingly a problem of single mothers)

This is not just a random, unconnected list. For the most part, social conservatives have made their peace with racial equality — in theory if not always in fact — but are still adamant about enforcing traditional sex and gender roles. This is the glue that binds all these issues together. SEX AND GENDER

My recent post about the delayed age of marriage in our society had sort of started me thinking along these same lines. I thought: this whole thing is about getting women to stay at home. And the trick there is to make them dependent on men. And of course the traditional way to do that is to keep them pregnant or busy raising a bunch of kids. And this sex-education stuff is dangerous to that agenda.

Now women work alongside men, and we all know what we're supposed to think, but there is a lot of discomfort on both sides. I could give examples, but you already know. Now that women have real careers, there is a tendency to concentrate on that, on working, before (or instead of) getting into the domestic business of marrying and starting a family, and marriages happen at a later age. That trend makes it necessary, as it never was before, for young people to learn about contraception; because people do have sex, whether they're supposed to or not, and if they don't marry till their late twenties, well, then, they'll be having unmarried sex, won't they? This means that they may be interested in preventing pregnancies, and as they have not fixed on a lifetime partner, the risk of infection is higher than for married couples. That study last week made it sound like a very small proportion of the population wait till they're married. (Hard to tell though, since the abstinence gang thinks having oral and anal sex is a form of "waiting.")

Kevin continues:
The latest example came a couple of days ago from the Washington Post in an article about the growing "Pharmacists Rights" movement:
An increasing number of clashes are occurring in drugstores across the country. Pharmacists often risk dismissal or other disciplinary action to stand up for their beliefs, while shaken teenage girls and women desperately call their doctors, frequently late at night, after being turned away by sometimes-lecturing men and women in white coats.

Needless to say, there don't seem to be any pharmacists out there who object to filling prescriptions for Viagra. Last year, Michigan even considered a bill called the "Conscientious Objector Policy Act," which would have allowed pharmacists and doctors to refuse to perform treatment they considered unethical. Notably, the act specifically prohibited doctors from withholding treatment on the basis of race, but not on the basis of sexual orientation. It was practically an invitation to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

This is why gender equality per se should get more attention from the liberal community: because it's the underlying core of so many emotional, election-deciding issues. I know, I know: this kind of talk is just so 70s. And it's true that the tone of feminist rhetoric — especially academic feminism — probably puts off a lot of liberal men, including me from time to time. But it's hard to make headway on all these disparate issues without understanding the core sensibility that drives so many of them. We shouldn't allow pique to get in the way of that.

A couple of weeks ago I sat in a meeting of people protesting the new health curriculum. To them, it was as if these trivial changes had been proposed by Satan himself. They were so worked up, so intense about all of this.

Sitting there, I found myself wondering again, what's the issue? What's the problem? OK, there are gay people, so what? OK, almost everybody has sex, so what would be so bad about teaching them how to do it safely? To those people, the distastefulness of it, the evil of it, was just ... obvious, but I had no way of understanding why any of this mattered to them.

Maybe, as Kevin Drum says, enforcing traditional sex and gender roles is "the glue that binds all these issues together." At least it gives some of us a clue for understanding what in the world the problem is.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sitting there, I found myself wondering again, what's the issue? What's the problem? OK, there are gay people, so what? .... obvious, but I had no way of understanding why any of this mattered to them.
Why are you overlooking the obvious truth Jim?

Most heterosexual parents, myself included, really, really, really dont want their children to turn out homosexual, because we think its perverted behavior. We can argue at length whether that is appropriate parenting or not, but the fact that it is true and widely held is undeniable.

Now you are telling these same parents, that have always tried to discourage their children from becoming homosexual by associating historically negative stereotypes and their un-approval towards gays into their parenting techniques, that hey, we dont care what you teach your children at home, we are going to teach them that homosexuality is normal, and not not perverted behavior like parents have been telling their children for millennium.

Just because you and your group consider yourselves more enlightened and open-minded about homosexuality, you think your doing the right thing by imposing that view on parents that are not prepared to stop telling their children homosexuality is perverted behavior. Your disquising your desire to force your agenda on everybody by claiming your main concern is the prevention of STD, but when from where I am sitting, it just appears you are trying to impose your values on the entire community.

Just because you are able to pretend you would not be upset if your children turned out to be gay, doesn't mean the entire community is prepared to be so open minded, and they resent the hell out of the school system telling their children the exact opposite of what they are teaching them at home.

If you taught your children at home that democracy was great, and the schools were teaching them that anarchy was a "normal" form of governing a society, you would be just as alarmed and upset as the conservative parents are now.

Just because you can associate homosexual behavior as normal, doesn't mean everybody can, and even though you may be able to force their children to sit through a class that teaches them homosexuality is normal behavior for humans with reproductive organs, you will never be able to force the parents to like it. And you are labeling their resistant to the ideas you are attempting to impose on them as hate.

March 31, 2005 4:18 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Doctor, I only have a minute before I'm going out. If there were something like suffering or even interruption of daily routine -- some negative effect -- associated with homosexuality, I'd be willing to go along with you, at least that there is an argument that it's "immoral" or whatever. But there's nothing like that. Some people are just gay, it doesn't hurt anything, and people who crusade against arbitrary phenomena like that are not moral, they're bigoted. And it's time to get over it. Call it "my agenda," but as an American I'm happy to call it "liberty." They're free to be how they want, if they don't hurt anybody, and they don't. It is the American agenda to ensure that people are free.

Second of all, it may be that you or someone else really doesn't want your kid to turn out gay. Fine. You seem to assume that sitting through a health class will do that to them ...

Do you remember health class?

I don't think that's going to happen.

March 31, 2005 6:32 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Since when do Pharmacists have the right to prescribe (or unprescribe) medication? The Pharmacist's job is to prepare the remedies that are ordered by medical doctors for their patients.

My 16 year old niece has suffered for years with severe menstrual cramps. To relieve that pain, her doctor prescribed low dosage oral contraceptives. When her mother recently tried to refill the prescription, the Pharmacist, standing behind his counter laden with condoms and analgesics for sale, refused to fill the prescription, even though the intent of the prescription was pain relief, not birth control.

That Pharmacist has no religious objection to pain relief or to male determined birth control as evidenced by other products he openly sells. His only objection is to female determined birth control. People who crusade against female determined birth control while accepting male determined birth control are displaying bigotry. Another obvious truth overlooked.

April 01, 2005 11:06 AM  

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